How COVID-19 made the digital economy stronger than ever before

2020 will not be a year we’ll soon forget. Of all the things that have changed over the year one of the biggest things that I have paid attention to is how the digital economy has changed in just a single year. If you told me that a public health crisis would be the reason the digital economy has expanded 2x what it was estimated to I would have asked you if you had hit your head on the way in.

People who would have never purchased online, are now avid fans

I have seen this one first hand. My grandparents in their 70s have always had a mistrust of the internet and online world. Before the crisis they had only bought online about 3/4 times and even then I did the actual purchase they would just ask me to find it for them.

Fast forward 8 months and the delivery boxes are exploding out the door. They have purchased everything from medication, food, diy products, gifts, homeware and everything inbetween this year. COVID forced them to try the internet, the pain they thought they would experience buying online went away as soon as that first Amazon man arrived at the door the next day. They built the muscle memory, got used to the purchase pattern and are now experts of the amazon delivery (I need to talk them out of buying things now). They have figured out how to research with reviews, be secure by looking at the browser SSL signals and so far have only has 1 order go very wrong but that didn’t stop them they where back to online purchasing the next day.

Online retail has become the primary location not the secondary

When it comes to the retail sector online was always in the back seat to their physical locations. I think that after 2020 retailers will start asking the question “Whats the online experience like?” before they ask about the physical retail experience. This year has caused them to level up, get the tools they need to be a player in online commerce and have the infurstructure to scale further into the future.

Retailers who plan to keep their physical locations will also need to make major changes to keep customers attention and get them out their homes. I think of companies like Apple when it comes to this. I open the Apple website about once a month just to look at it. I don’t do that with any other website, that says something about the experience when I look at it. I feel like I am at Apple, I get the same feeling you do in the store, but I dont need to leave my house to get it.

Apple will be the model retailers will have to follow for the foreseeable furture, their phsical locations will need to provided experiences and service you can’t get online. They will need to make going to the retail location an event not just a chore. When customers walk into an Apple location they take photos, scream giggle like little girls, line up for hours outside the store, no one will do the same to go to say H&M cause they can get what they need in the same time online.

Younger generations will lead the way like never before

Ever heard the phrase “Want to know how your phone works? Ask a teenager”. It couldn’t be more relevant. I was 8 when I got my first phone and about 9 or 10 before I touched a computer and about 12 before I was on the internet. My younger family members where online by the age of 5. They where on youtube, browsing google and asking for credit card details to buy game tokens almost instantly. The even of online schooling will have just pushed this a bit further by putting devices with access in the hands of younger and younger members of society.

With this rise comes a direct increase in the number of people that will enter the economy in a digital first mind set. Myself and younger family members think online first. We have grown up over the last 10 years with instance delivery and watching our parents transact online and basically waiting for them to perfect, it ready for us to use. I would bet £100 that your 7 year old will be able to buy you a new pair of shoes on amazon in 10mins or less if you gave them your credit card. Now the moral and security risks around this being true is a conversation for another day but it is happening and you need to make sure they know how to conduct themselves properly online.

COVID has pushed them to spend even more time online and over the next 5-10 years as they grow up and go through major life events: birthdays, graduations, school dances, drivers tests etc etc. They will be the first generation that has had the internet since they where born and have always had online purchase and interactions as the default option.

The new economy is here to stay and we need to adapt and embrace it risk being left behind

COVID has pushed the economy to change permanently. I think some things will have a slight correction as we come out of it but alot of the old economy we once knew is gone. Businesses need to understand that their online channel is now their most valuable IP and what will give them long term value to investors and shareholders.

People young and old have been forced to lean on the digital economy for the last year and I don’t think we are going to go back to the “old way” anytime soon.

Have some thoughts on the new digital economy? Leave them below I would be happy to hear them!

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